Start Early. Start well.

February 21, 2017

Buffett Researcher Studies Factors Impacting Black Boys' Early Learning

Omaha, Neb. — A study by the Buffett Institute's director of research and evaluation, Iheoma Iruka, pinpoints a number of factors that help predict learning outcomes for preschool-age black boys.

For Predictors of Infant and Toddler Black Boys' Early Learning: Seizing Opportunities and Minimizing Risks (Infant Mental Health Journal), Iruka used longitudinal study data from the U.S. Department of Education on 14,000 children (black boys and girls, and white boys) born in the U.S. in 2001.

Iruka said the study is important because little research has focused on infant and toddler black boys. The study explored their environments, whether these environments and experiences differ between black boys and their peers, and whether the link between the infant-toddler environments and experiences and children's preschool cognitive and language outcomes differ by gender and race.

The results of the study note the universal importance of a responsive and financially stable home and community environment. It also shows that some aspects of the family structure, neighborhood, and parenting are more significant during early development for black boys than for black girls or white boys. These factors include being in two-parent households, living in less urban settings, and experiencing "tough love" parenting, which is parenting that holds high expectations for children within a warm and caring environment. Iruka said laying a strong foundation and providing opportunities in the early years may increase black boys' chances for success.

Read the full study.